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Bowe arrows in on an Ulster revival

By Gavin Mairs

Tommy Bowe may exude a laidback demeanour but it is deceptive. Beneath the surface, a desire to succeed burns like a furnace.

It is this drive that has fired him to pick himself up again and again after setbacks that would leave other players wondering whether it was worth all the effort.

Having missed last season's autumn internationals with injury and again being sidelined during the first Test against Argentina in June, Bowe's biggest setback came of course in August, when he missed out on selection for Ireland's 30-man World Cup squad.

At the tender of age of just 23, and with his last start for Ireland in the Six Nations almost two years ago - the defeat in Paris against France in February 2006 - he knew his career was already at a crossroads.

For Bowe there was only one option. Get back on the horse.

He threw himself into Ulster's pre-season training, working hard on the areas that he felt needed attention.

And even in the depths of despair that Ulster have found themselves in this season, Bowe has shone like a beacon in a storm.

"I probably had one of the toughest parts of my career during the summer when I missed out on the World Cup," admitted Bowe. " Looking back, it has been a tough year. I injured my hamstring, came back and played for Ulster and scored a few tries and was close to the Six Nations squad.

"Eddie (O'Sullivan) pulled me aside and told me I was going well but because the team had been going well he wanted to stick with it.

"I had to take that on the chin and I thought my form continued to progress until the end of the season.

"Then, in Argentina, I chatted to Eddie again and he was very positive about me getting in (to the World Cup squad).

"Unfortunately within the first five minutes I injured my shoulder and didn't have my best game. I played again against Scotland but by that time the decision was made.

"I was frustrated and annoyed so I just tried to turn that frustration and annoyance into a positive this season."

Ironically, not going to France has proved a blessing in disguise. Not only did he miss out on the pschological damage of those involved in Ireland's disastrous campaign, staying at home with Ulster also gave him the perfect opportunity to fine-tune his game.

"Getting back in with the guys here was a good thing," he said. I got to extend my pre-season a bit longer and got straight into playing matches so it was the best way to get over it.

"I have had a number of small setbacks over the years.

" Being dropped after that game in France and then from the squad completely when Ireland went on to win the Triple Crown was tough.

"I came back from that only to be injured a couple of times and then miss out on the World Cup.

"But hopefully now I will get a break."

For a player who began his career seemingly with a Midas touch, he has shown a mature head to cope with a self-inflicted re-appraisal of his game, with his best years still ahead of him.

But it goes back to that determination again. Bowe is not prepared to accept second best.

" There are certain things that I have realised about my game," he added. " I am not the ball-player or different things that I try to be.

" My strengths are when I get the ball in my hands and I run with it. That's what I did when I first got into the squad (a try-scoring debut as a 19-year-old in 2003) and that's what I am trying to do now.

" There are some things you are good at and there are some things you aren't. So it is about working about the things you are not great at and playing to your strengths.

"I am working harder to get the ball in my hands to take on defenders.

"My goal is to make the Six Nations squad this year. It isn't going to be easy with the team having such a tough time, but all I can do my best."

To that end, Bowe, loved his experiment at centre for Ulster during the World Cup, and would also be keen for a run at full-back in the future.

For now though, his immediate target is on the Neath/Swansea Ospreys tonight (kick-off 8pm) and helping to restore Ulster's damaged pride.

And if Ulster are to play themselves out of this crisis, no doubt Bowe will be leading the charge.

Belfast Telegraph


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